Preaching in the Power of the Holy Spirit

Preaching in the Power of the Holy Spirit

January 15th, 1963

Acts 2

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
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PREACHING IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 2

1963 Moody Bible Institute

 

This is a message to preachers and the rest of us can listen in, but it is addressed to us who minister the Word of God.  It is a sermon, an address, concerning Preaching in the Power of the Holy Spirit of God.

In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, the story begins, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come” [Acts 2:1].  That day of Pentecost was a date set in heaven like the date of the birth of our Lord [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 2:4-16], like the date of the crucifixion of Jesus [Matthew 27:32-50].  That date of Pentecost was prophesied, foretold by the prophets.  It was a time that they foresaw in the elective choice and purpose of God [Joel 2:28].  That day of Pentecost came in answer to the prayer of Jesus [John 14:16].  It was the fulfillment of the promise of the Father [Acts 1:4].  That day of Pentecost introduced this age and era and dispensation of grace, of the church, of the ekklēsia of God, of the calling out from among the nations, and tribes, and tongues, and languages, and peoples of this earth a people for His name–“When the day of Pentecost was fully come” [Acts 2:1].  And beginning at that day, at that moment, at that hour, we have been living in the era and the extension of that Pentecostal blessing; and we live in that God-favored moment now.

From the day of Pentecost, a definite experience, a definite outpouring from the Lord God in heaven, from the day of Pentecost and thereafter there is the fullness of the Spirit of God poured out into this world without measure [John 3:34].  And any man anywhere can have the Holy Spirit of God in his soul, in his life, in his work, in his ministry without measure.  “And the Lord breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit” [John 20:22]Labete, and the fundamental primary meaning of lambanō, labete, imperative, is “to take.”  He is ours for the asking.  He is ours for the having.  And as we empty ourselves and leave room in heart, and soul, and life, and ministry for the Holy Spirit of God, His presence among us in working miracle, in abounding conversion, in power to regeneration is without limit.  It is an amazing, phenomenal thing that God hath made possible for our day and for our generation!

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come” [Acts 2:1], then you have the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon this age, this day of grace, of the preaching of the gospel of Christ, this day of calling men to repentance and to faith in the blessed Lord Jesus.  “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” [Acts 2:4].  Then I turn the page to the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, and there in verse 8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit…” [Acts 4:8].  Then in the same fourth chapter of the Book of Acts: “And when they had prayed,” this is verse 31, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness” [Acts 4:31].  Then I turn the page to the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 55: “But he,” Stephen, God’s preacher, “but he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” [Acts 7:55].

Then I turn the page to chapter 8, beginning at verse 14: “And the apostles at Jerusalem heard of these converts at Samaria, and they sent down there Peter and John: Who, when they came, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit” [Acts 8:14-15].  Then I turn the page to chapter 9, verse 17: “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 9:17].

Then I turn the page, chapter 10, beginning at verse 34: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said…” [Acts 10:34].  And at the conclusion of his sermon, verse 44: “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word.  And they of the Jewish people, they of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit” [Acts 10:44-45].

And the story continues.  There is no formal conclusion to the Book of Acts: it is an open-end book.  And the story goes on, and it goes on, and it goes on, these outpourings of the Holy Spirit of God, people receiving, people taking, people opening their hearts wide that He might come in, churches looking up to God in heaven, the Holy Spirit falling upon men in power, upon congregations in converting regenerating appeal, the Holy Spirit of God moving among God’s people in the earth.  And there has never been a time when that Holy Spirit has been taken away from us—not yet.  He is still here.

There may be darkness in some places, but there is always light, and glory, and power, and miracle, and visitation from God in other places, always, always!  When the church at Jerusalem fell into empty Judaistic legalism, the church at Ephesus and the church at Rome was filled with the blessing of the Spirit of God.  And when the church at Antioch fell into empty ceremonialism, the church at Milan began to feel the moving of the power of the Spirit of Jesus.  And when the churches in Alexandria and in Carthage and in North Africa became empty shells, the churches in Gaul were battling imperialism and were winning converts from the rude barbarians.  And when the church at Rome became a travesty in the name of Christ, all Ireland was turning to the grace of the blessed Son of God.  And when the ravages of Mohammed began to destroy the idolatry in the churches of the Levant and of Africa and of Asia Minor, at that same time the scholars of Iona were studying the Bible, they were translating the Scriptures, and they were evangelizing the Anglo-Saxons, our ancestors.  At the same time that the papal court at Avignon in France was a disgrace in its vice and in its villainy and in its luxury, godly ministers in Germany were studying the Bible, were writing books and preaching the gospel of the unsearchable riches in Christ Jesus.  At the same time that papal superstition and darkness was covering France like the robes of night, the morning star of the Reformation was rising in England.  At the same time that the fields in Italy were rotten with worthless stubble, the fields in Bohemia were ripening white unto the harvest.  At the same time that the Unitarian defection in New England robbed our churches and closed down the witnesses for Christ, at that same time pioneer preachers were pressing beyond the Alleghenies, and they were preaching the gospel on the great prairies of the heartland of America, and were laying the foundations for the great empire that glorifies Christ today.

At the same time that most of our churches are saying the day of mass evangelism is passed, Billy Graham is having the greatest throngs that this world has ever seen.  And at the same time that liberalism and modernism is wringing dry like a potsherd so many of our churches, the First Baptist Church in Dallas is having revival, and we are baptizing more converts than we have ever baptized in the hundred-year history of that blessed congregation.  At the same time that so many of our institutions are given to flirting with infidelity and cheap liberalism, the Moody Bible Institute is standing higher and more glorious today than it has ever stood in days passed.  The Holy Spirit of God is in our midst in power for those who will open their souls to receive Him, for those who will take Him.  God speed us in this ministry and in this way.  No great work for Jesus has ever been done, no mighty work for God has ever been done except in the power, in the unction, in the outpouring, in the enablement, in the enduement, in the visitation of the Holy Spirit of God from above.

Elisha was a child of God before Elijah met him; but before he was ready for the prophetic office, first he must be endued with power from above.  And Elijah said to Elisha:

God hath sent me from Gilgal to Bethel, God hath sent me from Bethel to Jericho, God has sent me from Jericho over the Jordan…And as the two walked together, Elijah said to Elisha, What shall I do for thee, before I be taken from thee?  And Elisha said, Oh, that a double portion of thy spirit might fall upon me.  And Elijah replied, Thou has asked an hard thing: but if you see me when I am taken away, it shall be done for thee.  And as they two walked on and conversed, there appeared horses of fire, and a chariot of fire, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.  And Elisha saw it!  He had his request!  O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof…And when the sons of the prophets of Jericho came out to see Elisha, they said, The Spirit of God, the spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha.

[2 Kings 2:2, 4, 9-15]

How do you know?  How do you know?  How do you know when the Spirit of God burns in the soul of one of His prophets?

The disciples were Christians before Pentecost; they’d been saved, they’d been regenerated, they’d been baptized.  But before they were ready for the tremendous worldwide task of preaching and evangelism assigned them, first they must be baptized with the Holy Spirit of God from above [Acts 1:8].  Jesus was the perfect Son of heaven, a body prepared for Him in the deep secret womb of a virgin girl [Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:26-35], that He might be offered as a sacrifice for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14], stainless, spotless, sure, in His childhood, in His manhood, and at thirty years of age sinless, perfect, holy! [Hebrews 4:15].  Yet even the Lord Jesus, before He began His public ministry, must first be endued, He must be visited, He must be set apart, He must be filled with the Holy Spirit of God from above; it came upon Him at His baptism [Matthew 3:16, Luke 3:22].  “This will be the sign,” said the Lord to John, “on whom you see the Spirit of God descending as a dove and abiding upon Him, this is He, this is He” [John 1:32-34].  And immediately after the story of the baptism of Jesus and the visitation of the Spirit of God upon Him, anointing Him for His public ministry, immediately thereafter, time and again—read it in the fourth chapter of the Book of Luke—time and again it will say, “And Jesus, driven by the Spirit…And Jesus, led by the Spirit…And Jesus, full of the Spirit” [Luke 4:1].

And the apostle Paul, converted on the way to Damascus [Acts 9:1-18], falling at the feet of Jesus, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me to do?” [Acts 9:6].  And in the city of Damascus, Ananias, sent by the Lord Jesus to Saul, and coming into his presence, said, “Brother Saul, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus whom thou didst meet in the way as thou camest, has sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and that thou mightest be filled with the Holy Spirit of God” [Acts 9:17].  Beside a man’s conversion, and beside a man’s regeneration, we must ask, we must open our hearts, we must empty ourselves in order that God might endue us, and might fill us, and might enable us for the great ministry to which He has called us.  There is a divine enablement, a divine visitation, a divine enduement that comes from God for men who are called to do His special work in the earth [John 14:17].  And we must receive that divine enablement for our task and for our ministry.

Now that is the opposite of what you find in the modern pulpit, in practically all of the churches of our modern day.  Oh! there is intellectual preparation, and there are all of the accouterments of culture and of preparation; but there is lacking what the old-timer’s used to call “divine unction.”  And the man is afraid to depend upon the Spirit of God, lest he betray intellectual weakness and emotional instability.  And my impression of the modern day minister as he preaches in his pulpit is that he is seeking after two or three things that are very apparent to me.  One, he is enamored with what I call “decorum.”  He loves it.  The actual minister of today, usually, as you find him, will be an effete, effeminate, dilettante, standing in the pulpit with his mild manners, speaking to a mild-mannered congregation on how to be more mild-mannered.  That will be a typical modern minister.  How out of character would be John the Baptist in his rough garb, and with his grasshopper salad, in any pulpit of any church of this modern day!

I heard a fellow one time describe a preacher like this: he said he was so sissy that when he walked out the door and shook hands with the guy, he asked the guy what was his maiden name.

So many ministers of our modern pulpits remind me of a fellow who swallowed an egg: he was afraid to bend, afraid it would break; he was afraid to sit still, afraid it would hatch.  And there he is in his pulpit, duped!  I sometimes have the persuasion of Henry Thoreau, who left Boston to go out there on Walden Pond.  And Henry Thoreau rode out there and said, “I’d rather sit on a pumpkin and listen to the chickadee-dees, than listen to those dry dee-dees in the city of Boston.”  Yet that is the form and fashion of the modern pulpit in this modern day: a panting after, and a seeking after, above all things, decorum.

Another thing of the modern minister: my impression is that most of them, most of them, so many of them, are vainly ambitious for denominational preferment, and recognition, and place, and advancement in this world.  And we grade our preachers: “This is just a little old fellow; he doesn’t amount to anything.  Why he doesn’t have a congregation of more than a hundred.”  “And that fellow, he never will succeed.  He’s not a successful minister.  He’s never got out of that county seat town.”  “And this fellow here, oh, look at him.  He’s a high-steeple preacher.”  And so we grade our preachers, and we say, “These are successful, and these are unsuccessful”; whether God had a word for a man’s life or not, we never consider, we just grade them like that.  And that causes our young preachers to be falsely ambitious.  “I’ve got to get along.  I’ve got to get up.  I’ve got to be invited to preach a convention sermon.  I’ve got to be elected to office.  I’ve got to be placed on the board.  I’ve got to be elected trustee.  I must be recognized.  And if I don’t find these recognitions, then I’m a failure!”  And the boy gets his mind off of the Spirit of God, and the fellow forgets God’s will for his life, and he begins panting after those false denominational distinctions and elections.  O Lord!  O Lord!  That such a thing could ever have come upon us!

I remember one time when the Southern Baptist Convention met in the hill country, back up there in eastern Tennessee, I think it’s in the city of Knoxville.  There came an old mountain preacher who attended the convention for the first time in his life. He never had been out of the county; he never had been anywhere.  So he went to the Southern Baptist Convention in Knoxville, Tennessee, and in those days, when you went to the hotel, why, why, you registered.  So when he went to the hotel, why, a clerk there stuck that thing under his nose, and he said, “What’s that?”  And the clerk said, “Well, you’ve got to sign your name there and tell us who you are.”  So he put his specs on the end of his nose, and he looked down at the register: “Such-and-such big shot, Ph.D.  Such-and-such big shot, D.D.  Such and such big shot, Litt.D.”  He wet the end of his pencil, and wrote his name, and after he put “R.F.D. #1.”

These false distinctions, oh! may the Lord forgive us.

I’m saying my impression of the modern minister in the modern pulpit, first: he’s enamored with decorum: everything just precise, leave the Holy Spirit of God out, everything just precise.  Second thing about him: he’s falsely and vainly ambitious, “Get along, get along, get along.”  Third thing: he is filled with a sterile intellectualism, false and empty and vain!

The theological world is the most amazing world to me that a mind could imagine.  Instead of wrestling with the lost, instead of wrestling with these that face eternity in damnation and in judgment, why, they’re over here somewhere, somewhere, somewhere, over there, over there, over there, wrestling with what these German theologians say or don’t say, what did Bultmann say, what did Niebuhr say, what did Blass say, what did Debrunner say, what did Tillich say?  What does it matter the sound of a tinker’s hammer what they say one way or another?  Let me tell you the truth: I can put in my living room all of the converts, all of those men, everyone in their entire lifetime.  Why, it is a travesty in the name of God!  With the world dying and on fire, and they’re over there in some corner somewhere debating some inane theological point—like those scholastics did concerning how many angels could dance on the point of a fine needle.  Oh brother!  Oh man!

Did you ever think about the preaching of the apostle Paul, did you?  He describes to you how he preached.  This man was a graduate of the university of Tarsus, the capital city of the Roman province of Cilicia.  This man was a product of the greatest rabbinical school this Jewish people have ever produced: the school of Gamaliel, the rabbon of Jerusalem [Acts 22:3].  This man could speak to the Greeks in their own language, at the court of the Areopagus, the Supreme Court of the Athenian government.  And he could quote their own poets, and speak to them in their own fine cultural dialect.  But how did this man preach?  Listen to him.  In the second chapter of the Book of 1 Corinthians, this is what he said:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the oracles of God.

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of Almighty God.

[1 Corinthians 2:1-5]

That’s how he preached.  That’s how he preached.

I think a man ought to study, that’s right.  A man ought to go to school, and that’s right.  He ought to pore over those books, that’s right.  I did for years and years and years. I went to school twenty-two consecutive years.  But when you’ve done your studying, and when you’ve prepared your message, and you’ve done the best you can, and you’ve got all things in readiness, then get down before God and say, “Now, Lord, send power O God, baptize it from above”; and depend upon the Holy Spirit of God to give the Word unction, and power, and a converting and regenerating invitation.

I’ll never in this earth forget going to Spurgeon’s tabernacle in 1947.  That was the first time I was there, in 1947.  The thing was bombed out; they’ve rebuilt it as a monument since, but it was bombed out.  And the little congregation—I numbered them, I counted them—the little congregation was about a hundred twenty.  And there they were, huddled together in the basement of that bombed-out church.  So we were there a little early, and waiting for the service to begin, why, I listened to two men back of me who were talking. One was an old man, and the other one was an old, old, old man, he was an ancient man.  And the old man said to the ancient man, he said, he said, “Did you ever hear Spurgeon preach?”

And the ancient man said, “Heh?  What did you say?”

And the old man said, “I said, did you ever hear Spurgeon preach?”

And the ancient man said, “Oh yes, many times.  He was my pastor many years.”  And the old man said to the ancient man, he said, “How did he preach?”

And the ancient man said, “Heh?  What did you say?”

And the old man said, “I said, how did he preach?  What was he like?”

And the ancient man thought, and he said, “Well, it’s hard for me to say.”  He said, “I love my present pastor, and I love these preachers.  But,” he says, “it seems to me that my pastor just talks, he just lectures.  But,” he said, “when Spurgeon stood up to preach, man, there was fire in it!”

Oh!  That stayed in my soul: “Man, when Spurgeon preached, there was fire in it!”

As Dr. Culberson said, “We’re not seeking the wildfire, but the fire from above”; the enduement, the visitation from God.

I don’t know how other people are—of course, we’re all different—but I’d rather have a man preach to me in the power of the Holy Spirit of God and I can feel the surging of the presence of the Lord in him, than to hear an intellectual, five hundred thousand years.  I had.  I’d much rather hear a man who says, “I seen,” if he’s seen something, than to hear a man who says, “I have seen,” if he hadn’t seen anything.

Let me show you what I’m talking about.  Way down there in the South, somebody asked me, “Would you like to go to a colored associational meeting?”  I said, “Well, yes, let’s go.”  So we got in the car.  I don’t know where he went.  I never saw such a sight in my life when we got there.  There were colored people there for miles and miles.  They had soda pop stands, and hot dog stands, and hamburger stands, oh! it was a sight to me.  It was a sight to me.  Well, I wanted to hear the preacher preach. When finally we got to the little church, why, I couldn’t even get near the thing.  So I said, “Now you don’t mind, do you?  Now you just wait.  I’m going to hear this fellow preach.”  So I started to edge, and I worked myself through all the crowd on the outside, and finally I got to the window, and I put my elbows on the window sill and propped my chin up with my hands, and I looked at the congregation and their service.  Oh!  What an impression it made upon me.

They never had any instrument, they never had any organ, they never had any piano, but they had a tuning fork: “Ping,” and he’d set that tune, and he’d heist the tune, and they’d sing seventy verses to every song, every one of them.  And nobody had a book, nobody had a book.  They didn’t sing out of a book; they sang out of their hearts!  In our church, why, we’ve got to get our nose down in a book, “Now 470,” and we sing like that.  They just sang, just sang out of their soul.

Then the fellow got up to preach.  Oh!  You should have seen it!  It was a hot August day, yet he was dressed in a Prince Albert coat, buttoned up here to his neck, clear down to the tops of his shoes.  He was a tall Negro, and his hair was white like wool.  And so he started out.  And he waxed mightier and mightier.  And I could tell by the way he referred to the Bible that he couldn’t read; somebody else had to read it to him.  But that said, you should have heard him!  And right in the middle of his sermon he looked around all the people there, and all of the brother preachers were there, and I was listening at the window, he looked around and he said, “My brethren and my sisters, where was God afore the world was made?  Huh?  Where was He?”

And all the brothers and sisters out there, they shook their heads, and they said, “Preacher, we don’t know.  Where was He?”

And he turned around at all of the ministers sitting with him on the platform, and he said, “My brethren in the gospel ministry, where was God afore the world was made?”

And all of the ministers shook their heads, and they said, “Preacher, we don’t know.  Where was He?”

And I was a’sticking my head in the window, and he looked over at me, and he said, “White man, where was the Lord afore the world was made?”

Ooh, I thought and thought.  Where was He?  Where was He?  That tall Negro preacher drew himself up to his highest height, and looking triumphantly over that congregation he repeated his question, “Where was the Lord afore the world was made?”  And he answered it, “My brethren and sisters, the Lord was in His glory!”

And all the brothers and sisters out there said, “Amen, preacher, that’s right.  The Lord was in His glory.”  And he looked around at all his brethren ministers, and they said, “That’s right, preacher, the Lord was in His glory.”

And he looked over there at me, and I thought, “Idiot that I am, why didn’t I think of that!”  The Lord was in His glory.  Oh!

There is something about divine unction, about burning, about the Spirit of God in a man’s ministry.  There is something about the fire of heaven in his words, that when you listen to him your soul tingles, your heart thrills, you want to clap your hands, you want to shout and sing.  Oh, it is the most heavenly of all the experiences I know in human life, to go to church and to listen to a man of God when the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in his soul.

Talk about crowds, you have a problem: what in the world to do with them?  I said to Dr. Culberson last night, “Oh, I wish I had that big auditorium.  I wish I had that big auditorium.  We’d jam that thing and run it over every Lord’s Day of the week.  Oh, I wish I had that big auditorium.”  You don’t know when a fine auditorium is big enough, when your preacher is standing up there preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit of God, and his words burn like fury and like fire.

Now I want to talk to you for a little while about preaching in the power of the Spirit of God, and not in the learnedness of men; just by way of remembrance, for you know these things better than I.  John Wesley, precise Oxford don, methodical, Methodist, methodical in all of his habits of life, came to the United States of America, he came to America, he came to Georgia, the colony of Georgia, to win the American Indian to Jesus.  After a little while, discouraged, he went back to England, and he wrote in his book, in his diary, “I went to America to convert the American Indian.  But oh, who will convert this hard heart of mine?”  A little while after that he went to that Moravian Aldersgate chapel, and there while a minister was reading in the preface to Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he felt his heart strangely warmed: that God by grace does save, and that he truly believed in Jesus.  And Wesley stood up and went out, and he wrote in his diary, “I preached and they didn’t come.  Now I preach and they come,” the same sermons, the same texts, the same appeals, but now with the unction and the moving power and the burning of the Spirit of God in his soul.

Dwight L. Moody, 1871 was a critical year in his life.  You know these things better than I.  Two old women down there on the front, every time Moody would stand up, they’d bow their head.  Finally he said, “What are you doing?”

They said, “Praying.”

Well he said, “What are you praying for?”

“Praying for you.”

“Praying for me?”

“Yes,” they said, “that you might be filled with the Holy Ghost from above.”  And it insulted him.

 “Why aren’t you praying for the lost?  Why for me?  Why, I preach to more people than in Chicago.”

“No,” they said, “we’re praying for you.”  And every time he’d stand up to preach, there were those two old women down there in front, with their heads bowed, praying for Moody.  He got over his anger.  He began to seek the face of God.

Walking down Wall Street after the great Chicago fire, going over there to make an appeal for money, but his heart not in it, appeal with God for the fullness from above.  Walking down Wall Street, the visitation of the Holy Spirit came upon him, and he asked for a friend’s room; finally cried, “O God, stay Thy hand, lest I die.”  And that same identical words I have read, as I read in the life of John Wesley, he said, “I preached the same sermons, I used the same texts, and people thronged coming to Jesus”—the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

Charles G. Finney: there’s not a preacher that lives, I don’t care who he is, there’s not a preacher that lives that ought not to read the autobiography of Charles G. Finney.  When the Holy Spirit of God came upon him, he said, “My words were like fire bearers in the soul!”  He said, “They were like the hammer that breaks a rock in pieces.”  He said, “They were like the sword that cuts in twain.”

I was just reading, just generally reading, and I came across the testimony of a businessman who was making his way from New York to Chicago.  And as he went through the town of Rochester, New York, why, he heard they were having services.  And he said, “I went to the services, and I sat on the back row.”  And he said, “When that man preached, I had the feeling my hair stood straight up!”  So powerful were the words—a hundred thousand conversions in Rochester, and the town only had a population of fifty thousand people.

Spurgeon—I copied this out of one of Spurgeon’s sermons. “Let the preacher always confess before he preaches that he relies upon the Holy Spirit.  Let him bring his manuscript, and depend upon the Holy Spirit.  If the Spirit does not come to help him, let him be still, and let the people go home and pray that the Spirit will help him next Sunday.”  I’ve just wondered, what would happen, what would happen, if on an ordinary Sunday, you or I were to stand up in the pulpit, and were to say, “My brethren, the Spirit of prophecy hath forsaken me.  My heart is dry like a potsherd.  We’re going to have the benediction, everybody go home and pray for your preacher.  And then next Sunday, next Sunday, next Sunday we’ll be asking God’s Holy Spirit to fall upon your pastor.”  I’ve just wondered what would happen.

For one thing, you couldn’t get in the house, you couldn’t get in the churchyard for the people coming out to see the man burn for God, visited from above.  Well, I used to wonder what would happen if a man did that.  In my reading about a month ago, I came across an instance of it.  Evan Roberts, who lived in our century, who led the great Welsh revival, Evan Roberts was preaching, and his heart was dry, and his soul lost its unction from above.  He went into his room, he shut his door, he stayed there seven days and seven nights.  He prayed to God.  He agonized before God.  And when he came out, the book I read said that the fire of God was in his words: the holy unction from heaven was upon him.  He turned an entire nation to the Lord!  Did you know Evan Roberts had a hundred fifty-two thousand additions to the churches of Wales in six months, in six months?

We’re not to think the power of God was back there, but He is not today.  We’re not to suppose that God has withdrawn His unction and His heavenly enduements.  They’re for us. They’re for us today.  We’re so full of self, and so full of false ambition, and so full of littleness, and we’re so bound down with the things of this earth that we can’t hear God talk, and we don’t listen to Him, and we don’t pray, and we don’t ask.

O Lord, O Lord, what shall become of us?  What shall become of us?

Billy Graham was in our town last week, as you know.  I heard Billy Graham say, he said, “I now take the simplest outline, the simplest outline and a few Scriptures under each one of those simple headings, and I make appeal for Jesus, depending on the Spirit of God.  And the Lord always sends that tremendous harvest.”  He is ours: the Spirit is ours.  He is ours!

O Lord, O Lord, the dullness of this flesh, O God, the emptiness of my own words in the flesh, when at the same time at the same hour I could have the power of all heaven above me if I’d just look, if I’d just ask, if I’d just open my soul that He might come in.

I have stood in the temple area in Jerusalem, where Simon Peter preached at Pentecost [Acts 2:14-42], and bowed my head and cried, “O Lord, O God, for that power, for that power.”  I have stood on the site of ancient Samaria, where Philip the deacon, the evangelist, preached in the power of God [Acts 8:5-12], and prayed, “O Lord, O God, for a like power, for a like visitation.”  I have stood in old Corinth at the bēma, where Paul pled the cause of Christ [Acts 18:12], bowed my head and cried, “O God, do it again, do it again.”  I have stood in the great Duomo in Florence, that vast cathedral, where Savonarola called his city to repentance and to faith in Jesus, and cried, “O God, do it again, do it again.”  I have knelt at the place of the Aldersgate Chapel, where John Wesley felt his soul strangely warmed, and I have prayed to God, “O Lord, do it again, do it again, do it again.”  I have stood in the great church named for Dwight L. Moody, and as I have stood there and preached, “O God, do it again, do it again.”

I now stand in the pulpit of the most illustrious Baptist preacher our people have ever produced, the immortal George W. Truett, our golden-tongued, silver-tongued orator.  And in that place, time and again, the Lord came down our souls to greet, and glory filled the mercy seat, and I cry to God, “O Lord, today, do it again, do it again!”